Smoke And Mirrors – Cosmetic Industry Brand Language and the Reality of Animal Testing

Smoke And Mirrors – Cosmetic Industry Brand Language and the Reality of Animal Testing

This is what a great number of cosmetic companies are actually saying both on their packaging and on their websites when you read a message stating: “not tested on animals”, or “product not tested on animals” and even “cruelty free”. It is difficult to believe, but I am afraid that I am the harbinger of bad news!

Over the last 12 months we seem to have witnessed an escalation whereupon the consumer was insidiously misled and frankly lied to again and again. We were eating horsemeat, our clothes were being made by suffering workers in dangerous and despicable conditions, the angora exposé, the list went on and in fact it doesn’t cease.

More apt for this article, I was informed at the beginning this week that a very well known high-street brand (famous for its founder’s ethical vision) was recently exposed by Australian CHOICE magazine who found the cruelty-free company selling its products in Chinese airports. As more and more people are starting to realise, Chinese law requires cosmetics to be tested on animals and the brand’s global customer messaging has always emphatically stated that it does not sell in China. So what’s going on? Well, pre-market animal test requirements are actually waived for products selling in the airport, but there remains a risk, no matter how small, that post-market animal testing may be done at random on any products sold duty free.

In response to CHOICE’s findings, the brand in question (do please look it up, if you are still in the dark as to whom I refer) has temporarily removed its products from Chinese airports, and rightly so. But I’m saddened that this long-time cruelty-free company ever considered it a risk worth taking that animal testing might ever be conducted on its products. That’s certainly not a risk that ethical consumers would endorse. And above all, if we demand honest and transparent policy statement from animal-testing companies, we should demand no less honesty from our cruelty-free staples. ‘We don’t sell in China’ should mean all of China because that’s what the average customer will understand those words to mean. I will be watching closely how this unfolds.

As with horsemeat-filled pancakes, pies and lasagna, it is the utter disregard of the consumer by the brand that I find galling. In the context of cosmetics, let’s just get this straight – we work, we get paid, and then we spend our hard earned money on a beauty product – fine. But then we realise that the maker of that product does not hold us in high enough regard nor respect us sufficiently to tell us simply and honestly whether their product was: tested on an animal; comprises of ingredients that were tested on animals; outsources testing, or buys ingredients from a supplier who tests and/or outsources their testing. Treachery with a coral-lip smile on its face! Why? Well, firstly, it is a case of profits before ethics. Secondly, they value our money but not us. They know how an ethical and ‘conscious consumer’ would react to their deceit.

Brand messages are many and are essentially organized into 3 main categories: ingredient claims – for example: “we do not test our ingredients on animals”; product claims – like: “product not tested on animals” and company claims – along the lines of: “we do not endorse animal testing”. However, in all cases quoted here, there is a cache of ‘language loopholes’ in which the truth can be evaded. It is difficult to know for sure, however I recommend that you check out the Leaping Bunny and PeTA’s listing of cruelty-free brands that are constantly monitored.

Separately but related, I was privileged last week to be awarded the title of Be Cruelty Free Beauty Ambassador by Humane Society International (HSI), during their second annual ‘Be Cruelty Free Week’, a leading global campaign to end animal testing for cosmetics worldwide. It is a sincere pleasure for me to help them spread the word. For more information on HSI and their invaluable work and for further information on points raised in this article please visit their website:

Lastly, I implore readers to recognise their power of choice as a consumer with a moral compass and change their beauty buying habits to cruelty-free ones. Furthermore, stand up to brand’s assumptions that you are apathetic to their contorted communications. In short – don’t buy their concealer as long as they’re concealing the truth!


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1 Comment

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